Inca Link, the organization I’ve gotten to spend some time with in my time here, is finishing up a school for Christian community leaders in Huaticocha, a small pueblito in the Orellana province of the Amazon. I got a last minute opportunity to spend a long weekend here with a volunteer group from the states a few weeks ago, and it was such a cool experience. I’m so thankful they let me tag along!
Growing up, I watched hours and hours of Animal Planet. Two of my childhood dreams have been to go to the Amazon rainforest and to go to the Galapagos Islands (which I will do in just a week!!). As we drove from Quito, down into the Amazon Basin, I could barely contain my child like glee. I couldn’t believe it. We were driving into the Amazon. Most of the Ecuador that I have seen is hilly, mountainous, green and grassy, but as we approached the edge of the basin, I could look down and see the immense jungle stretch, completely flat, out and disappear into the horizon, where it continues at more or less the same elevation until Brazil and the Atlantic ocean.
Since I was a last minute addition to the trip, I just tagged along with the rest of the team and participated in the things they participated in. We helped finish construction on the 2 story school that will open in January, slept in bunks with mosquito nets, washed in the river, visited local communities and churches, and wondered at the immensely beautiful surroundings. I saw a tarantula as big as my fist the first night, in a bathroom stall (YIKES.), moths as big as dinner plates hanging out by our bedroom doors, ants the size of my thumb that would put you in bed with a 4 day fever if bitten, and a multitude of birds, parrots, and butterflies.
On the last afternoon I was there, one of the Amazonian workers took me on a hike to a nearby waterfall. We walked–him at an impressively brisk pace through the slippery undergrowth, me struggling to keep up and not fall in rubber boots–for about an hour through thick jungle to arrive at one of the most impressive waterfalls I had ever seen. The area that we walked to was a system of waterfalls–on the hike I could look through certain gaps in the trees and see a hundred-plus foot waterfall spilling out of some unknown rock, and felt like I was in a completely different world. I could hardly imagine that I was in the same country as Quito! Unfortunately, I don’t have any good pictures of the waterfall, because as soon as we arrived, the famous rain forest rains began and giant rain drops fell furiously from the thunderous sky above. We covered our bags with giant leaves to keep them more or less dry, and went swimming in the pool under the water fall. I will never forget the sensation of being so close to thousands of gallons of water falling down by my head, in the rain, the noise and feeling so overwhelming, leaving me feeling so small. After a swim, we began the uphill hike back to our compound, which, after about 30 minutes of straight downpour, was like walking uphill through a river. Water streamed through the trees against us, and we had to wade our way through 2-8 inches of flowing water for the hike back. My backpack was wet for 2 days after that hike.
Here are some shots of the kids I got the chance to hang out with in the community, super shy at first, but by the end were fighting for camera time and a hand to hold. Tell me they aren’t some of the sweetest smiles you’ve ever seen, and I’ll tell you you’re lying.
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<p><span style="color: rgb(29, 29, 29); font-family: Arial, Verdana, sans-serif; font-size: 12px; line-height: normal; background-color: rgb(237, 237, 237);">I'm studying studio art, entrepreneurship/social enterprise and international studies at Wake Forest University (Go Deacs!). Born and grew up in Canada by Malaysian born parents, I've always had an awareness of other cultures, countries, and customs. I've always wanted to travel South America and after spending the summer interning in Lima and volunteering in Kenya, I am excited to stay in one country for a while and live out some new adventures. I enjoy everything about the outdoors--camping, rock climbing, hiking, biking, running, hammocking, and have recently taken up surfing while in Lima. I also love all things art-design, painting, photography, and film, and hope to be able to share my experiences in Quito through my words and images.</span></p>